Tuesday, January 18, 2011
One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes
Stephen Marshall has returned home after the war to discover that his wife, Laura, has let things slide a bit. And really, how is a middle-class household to run smoothly when your staff has up and left to support the war effort? His domain is not the only thing that has lost its shine, his wife seems to have aged while he was away. Her hair has begun to go grey.
In a movie, the happy reunion of a family after years of separation would be dramatic and sweeping. The reality was quite different in many cases and the restoring of social order wasn't always easy. The independence experienced by Laura dissolves away when she is chided by her husband for letting things go. At the same time, her mother, Mrs Herriot, states that her daughter is working too hard. A situation brought on my Laura's foolhardy decision to marry a man less wealthy than hoped for. Thoughts of wanting more for herself are pushed aside for errands and social calls, this is Laura fulfilling her duty just as Stephen has fulfilled his in the war.
While it would be easy to focus on the friction, Panter-Downes writes lyrically about flowers and bees in the neglected garden, cakes and biscuits in the pantry and the green English countryside. Ten year-old, Victoria, stuffing herself with delicious home-cooked fare at her friend's house is heartwarming and of course, those cups of tea, wonderful. The fertility of the women in the village is grounds for speculation whether the men are home or away.
What was, what is and what may be are ruminated over and dreamt about. At the end of this one fine day, Stephen and Laura separately come to a conclusion about how they will embrace tomorrow. In what I know is an unpopular opinion, I can't say that I really cared. The writing is sublime, the characters very real...I just couldn't resist wanting to shake them.